Academics
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Even though midterm season has just finished, finals are right around the corner. If the upcoming exam season feels overwhelming, here’s Spectrum’s guide to separating yourself from finals and taking them one step at a time.

Clean your area

No matter how you feel an exam went, at least the class is now over. Celebrate (quickly) by clearing your space, even if that just means moving all of your study materials out of sight. Having them literally out of the picture helps solidify that you’re done with that class and makes it easier to move on to your next subject. Even if you’re just moving everything to the floor so that you can more thoroughly organize it later, it’s pretty satisfying to shove everything to the side. A clean workspace will minimize distractions and boost your productivity once you return to studying.

Watch your favorite TV show

Grab your computer and put on your favorite light-hearted show. A movie’s probably too long, because you don’t want to sacrifice your limited study time, but a 30- or 45-minute show is great for calming and clearing your mind. Pick something you don’t have to pay much attention to, as you’ll probably start the episode and still be focused on what you wrote down for the essay question or whether you drew that graph correctly. But by the time the episode’s over, you’ll be smiling and ready to attack your next exam!

Take a walk or exercise

If there’s still light outside, get out of your living space. Being stuck inside surrounded by textbooks and notes can get overwhelming, and having a physical separation between you and your work is helpful. If you can’t get outside, try doing an at-home workout or meditation, however short. It’ll get your blood pumping and your focus off mental stress and onto physical sensations, helping you to reset. As an added bonus, exercise has been tied to better moods, concentration, and lower stress.

Cook and eat food

When we’re so busy, it’s easy to skimp on meals that take more than a few minutes to prepare. While your mind’s still busy reciting equations from your exam, take the time to cook a more nourishing meal. You’ll have the added bonus of more nutrients and better taste. If you don’t have any talents in the kitchen, order take-out. You just finished an exam, treat yourself!

Catch up with friends

Call or video chat with a friend. Having an interaction with someone who cares about your well-being can relieve the stress of the finals. Schedule a time to have a conversation after your exam, or plan a socially-distanced picnic. Alternatively, spend some quality time with your family or roommates. You might be tempted to unload your worries onto others, but take a break from all that stress and have a fun conversation with them. Talking about good things is a worthwhile activity to put yourself in a positive mindset. Hanging out with a buddy (even online) and having any semblance of human interaction can boost up your mental health.

Listen to your favorite podcast

If you feel the need to be productive during your break, listen to a podcast on a topic that interests you the most. There is a podcast for nearly every subject, from current event updates from the New York Times’ The Daily to conversations with the former first lady in The Michelle Obama Podcast. Give your eyes a break from the screen and close your eyes. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, listening to a podcast will lighten your busy day.

Sleep and don’t set an alarm

After those midterm all-nighters, you deserve to catch up on your sleep. You might wake up in three hours or not until the next day, but keeping your circadian rhythm on track is crucial to staying awake during the day and feeling good. Hang that “Do Not Disturb” sign on your bedroom door, grab your pillow, and count some sheep. Alternatively, if it’s the middle of the day and you need to study later, there’s no shame in afternoon naps! Get your beauty sleep to be refreshed to tackle your next final.

Staff writer Aliza Rabinovitz can be contacted at aliza.rabinovitz@columbiaspectator.com. She loves to de-stress by taking a short dance class or watching an old episode of the West Wing. Follow Spectrum on Twitter @CUSpectrum.

Staff writer Emma Cho bakes sourdough bread to unwind and can be contacted at emma.cho@columbiaspectator.com. Follow her on Twitter @emsoojin.

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